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Southwest Airlines Community

Onboard Broadband Internet

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We are going to start testing inflight Internet access.  Check it out.
65 Comments
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I have mixed feelings on this. Will Southwest be doing any type of filtering to restrict what a customer can do online? ie, if VOIP programs are allowed to be used, this could make a very long flight......
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Hi Aaron, Thanks for sharing your concerns. Keep in mind that this is a test, and I am sure we will learn dos and don'ts from it. Also, if VOIP requires the use of a cellphone, cell phones are still prohibited during flight. If it requires a microphone directly into the computer, that will be one of the learning lessons we take home. Another thing has to do with speakers, not just on phone service but any web site with sound. Will we require headphones or expect folks to remember their neighbors. We will just have to wait and see how things go. Brian
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Thank you. I am not familiar with the details but I want your planners to know I am willing to pay an additional fee to have 'premium access' to maintain high speed access versus being slowed by heavy use on the flight. The one additional need I have is for better battery life for my laptop or a plug-in on your longer flights. Any help there? Again - Thanks - this will be a very valuable service for me.
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hey Chuck, Thanks for the comment. I am far from being a techie, but on today's earning call, our Sr. VP of Marketing, Dave Ridley, explained why we are going with a satellite-based system. He said that many of the current land-based systems were designed for laptops only and don't take into account devices like BlackBerrys. The satellite system offers not only enough bandwidth to accommodate what's out there now, it has room to grow. Brian Oh, I honestly don't know about plug-ins onboard the aircraft. Most of our gate areas have been redisgned with charging stations however.
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Thanks Brian. When I refer to VOIP, I'm referring to programs such as Skype, which allow people to communicate via their computer. I personally would like to see these type of services prohibited, not so much from a bandwidth point, but more from a "love thy neighbor" point. If you get a plane full of people all on their headsets talking to people, it makes for a very loud plane. I would also ask about web filters... Unfortunately, some people don't understand what is "public appropriate" and I would hate to see the FA who would have to ask the customer to stop viewing certain material. I am willing to wait and see once the service is introduced. I'm also waiting to see what the pricing points will be.
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I would make one recommendation for the Wi-fi rollout... Do it quickly! Not only for the competitive advantage or for the investors, but for the customers... We're chomping at the bit to get it!
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Hey Brian, Any word on what this service will cost to those of us flying? Is it going to be free and just rolled into the cost of the ticket or will it being per segment costs? I am sure all your tests will include WTP (willingness to pay, see I did learn something in econ) and all that stuff, but I was just wondering if you guys had a ball park figure? Thanks, Kevin
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Will the actual network management be handled by SWA or Row 44? Will FAs be trained to provide tech support (only half joking)? Will some sort of traffic management be employed to prevent the available bandwidth from being saturated with p2p, video, or malicious traffic such as worms?
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[...] were intrigued when Southwest announced it will be testing inflight internet access hopefully this summer on four aircraft. The service, in [...]
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This is GREAT News... Congrats to SWA for keeping not only up to date, but ahead of everyone else on so many things. The Upper Minds at SWA definetly continue to think "Out Side The Box". Keep up the great work... And power at the seats would be another great mod for the AirCraft... I would also like to cast in a vote for that one.
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This is a great improvement. I'd love to see on-board power for charging devices as well.
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My home / work phone is a VOIP connection via my computer. I use a headset plugged into my computer to make telephone calls with a mic on my headset. I am Deadset against people using cell phones in-flight, as my pov is that I want a quiet flight once the door closes at the gate. However, I have to tell you, with internet connectivity, I would be very tempted to fire up my computer and make phone calls although I know I shouldn't because I talk to loud. I love VOIP. I am never going back to a regular phone again. TZ
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Do you expect install it first on your four newest planes (at the time of rollout) or on already existing planes?
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When there's a chance to upgrade the planes, see if it's possible to install power plugs at every seat. That would be VERY USEFUL and compliment the internet onboard the flight (especially longer flights)!!!
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How will customers know which planes will have it and when will it happen? Also, is there going to be a fee to use it and if so how much? I like Olivers idea of power ports at each seat for those who travel cross country. Laptop batteries only last 2-3 hours. I also, agree with the other posters about blocking such content as VOIP and porn websites. I hope SWA has some kind handout with info such as how to connect and keep sound off or use headsets and flight attendants should have the power to tell a customer to turn the computer off if anything is deemed inappropiate.
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VoIP won't work as intended on a satellite based system - the latency is just too great, though it has been getting better with improved technology - its just not there yet. Just be prepared to explain that when people complain. Otherwise, I think this is great for SWA. The pricing structure would have to be fair however. Long flights, short flights - need to have a pro-rated "connect time" fee per hour. Or maybe you can even pre-pay when you book your flight with your confirmation code as the authorization, There are ways to get creative with this. Now if you can only find a way to make a laptop and drink fit on the same tray....;-)
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Tommy: Your admission about talking too loud is my concern about permitting VoIP calling onboard. I worry that the inflight din will cause people to unconsciously talk louder because they think they aren't being heard, similar to how cell phone users talk slower and louder in a noisy or weak signal environment.
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Great news! - Power plugs at each seat would be a godsend to compliment this - I don't mind paying extra for this service, but please consider a 'per-day' or 'per-itinerary' type of pricing instead of 'per-segment'. But per-segment would be better than by minute or by actual usage. - Would love if the service were compatible with roaming providers (such as Boingo), but I understand if business-wise, this were not possible. I fly SWA a little over half the time for my personal trips. If this were on all flights, I think that would move to nearly all my personal trips.
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Thanks to everyone for your comments, suggestions, and concerns. As I have humbly (yeah I can be humble) admitted, I am not a techie, but I have asked one of the folks who is involved with the new product to respond to you. Angela Vargo readily agreed to that opportunity, and her first comment is below. Brian
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Hi Everyone - Thanks so much for all of your comments. We are very excited about this announcement and look forward to bringing you the best inflight broadband solution available as soon as possible. In answer to some of your questions above: - Yes VOIP will be blocked. Everyone will have full access to e-mail and instant messenger which, in my opinion, are much better SILENT options than yacking into a microphone. - Inappropriate content will be dealt with in the same manner as it is today - (i.e. if someone is watching a highly inappropriate movie on a laptop or cudding loudly on a flight). Our FAs are highly trained to deal with those situations. - I can't comment on the seat power but, to Brian's point, we did enhance the gate areas with new seating and power stations so that everyone has a chance to juice up their devices before takeoff. - We also haven't said what will be charged for this service but please know that it will definitely be in line with our low cost model. We want to bring you exceptional value and a great high-speed internet experience. Keep the comments and suggestions coming!
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Angela, Thanks for riding to the rescue with the facts. Angela, with her Darth-Vadar like web, is the individual who introduced me to the blogosphere. Brian
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I am an SWA FA, and internet or not people can watch inappropriate stuff on their computer. I've seen some people watching some questionable stuff from dvds and stuff they have downloaded at home. If someone is looking at inappropriate stuff on the internet or has their volume up loud we (SWA FAs) will take the appropriate action we learned in training. I honestly don't think people watching vulgar content on the internet will be a big problem b/c most of our flights are pretty full. You gotta have some guts to look at "dirty" website surrounded by over 140 people on a plane. Its the empty flights that you run into the sketchy stuff on those computers.
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I flew southwest last night from orlando and our flight was late getting into birmingham to change planes. We raced to the next gate only to find that for my family of 6 that there were only 7 seats scattered throughout the plane, all in the center seat. I was on the origingating flight in orlando and in the last group to board and also was completely divided up(we arrived at the airport 2 and a half hours early). I will never fly southwest again as when I pay for a seat on a flight I want a guaranteed position. This was the most miserable flight that I've been on as the overheads were full and my carry on filled the seat underneath and I could not straighten my legs. Sincerely, Todd Brock
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While I would love to use the Internet while in flight, I too am concerned about the use of any voice communications on the plane. I very much support banning the use of voice communication by passengers which in flight, means no cell phones, no SKYPE, no VOIP. Every poll which I've seen says the overwhelming majority of the flying public supports such a ban. I also support requiring the use of earphone or earplugs for listening to any audio from music, cds, dvds, movies, etc. For most people that's just common courtesy, but there are some out there who need to be told, "No!" If someone needs to communicate instantly in real time, IM would be the way to go. I look forward to email, web, IM, etc., but on a late flight, especially a long flight I want the option to sleep the hours away without listening to the guy or gal next to me prattling along, or playing their music for all to hear.
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For me, it is all about the pricing. I run my own website for my business and my Samsung Blackjack comes in very handy when I am about of the office. However, broadband Internet while on a plan only makes sense for me if the cost is reasonable. if I need entertainment, I can always bring a good book, chat with a fellow passenger or even break out the iPod. How much will the service cost?
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For more information on this, I found this on http://www.row44.com. It is written in MS Word, but wordpad should read it as well. http://www.row44.com/uploads/01-23_Inflight_Connectivity.doc
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I would be completely disgusted if someone were viewing porn while I was flying with my family. I am a busy business traveler who brings his family along quite often, and would benefit GREATLY from having internet access (so I am super excited about this!!!!). But I beseech Southwest to be prudent regarding internet access. I feel that Southwest should have the same filtering standards that public libraries have. That shouldn't prevent email (especially if using Microsoft Outlook) from working, but it would keep kids (and old fashioned adults) from being exposed to things they work hard to avoid at home and everywhere else. I think Southwest would open a can of worms with an unanticipated increase in flying danger if they were to permit porn on board. I'm not so big on filtering VoIP access, but I do see how others could be bothered by it. If any in Southwest management need some technical guidance on this, I am a Software Architect with 7 years of experience, and can provide great guidance, or even services to build a good filtering solution.
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Hi. As a long-time Southwest loyalist, I'm thrilled to hear about this. I would urge you to make absolutely sure to stamp out every clever way people come up with to use internet access to make phone calls. I would love to be able to check email and surf the web on my iPhone, but if that access comes with the risk that people will make phone calls in the air, I'd rather do without.
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I just talked to some of our tech experts (thanks Shelley and Doug!) and we will be filtering for inappropriate content so that will help keep the potential (and hopefully infrequent) incidences at bay.
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Two quick comments Brian. I'd gladly pay a quarterly or annual fee for Internet access. Much less work for you guys too I'll bet. On the voice part, I'm absolutely against any one making phones calls even if you did allow them. But I'd fight back ... If they get to talk, then I get to sing. Seems only fair. Rob
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As someone runs close to 50 flights per year and has a constant need for technology and connectivity I absolutely love the idea. I know southwest has been targeting the business travelers more agressively so allow me to make a suggestion. No matter the final price point of this service it would be wonderful if it was complimentary for all Business-level and A-List travelers. Thus making those seats actually more attractive and rewarding you very frequent flyers like yours truely. I know it sounds like a self request, but one born out of long-term financial success for you. Thanks again for even considering this service!
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Keeping low fares and the world's easiest rewards program in mind, I think the pricing for inflight wi-fi should be kept as simple as possible. Perhaps offering two options would give the freedom of choice and offer value. A "day pass" would allow anyone to have 24 hours of internet access for a low fee without the need to worry about hourly charges. Alternatively, a monthly subscription might make more sense for the frequent traveler and help build loyalty.
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Thanks for agreeing to filter content!! I too am a regular traveler, and I can tell you it would save my company great amounts of money if I could effectively work in flight and communicate with my colleagues.
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Kudos to Mr Coleman's idea about bundling in-flight wi-fi with the Business Select Fare. That would definately be a good amenity to include in addition to the A boarding pass and free drink. I think giving flyers options like Mr Patty's idea about a day pass to access wi-fi is also smart.
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Awesome! I know I would be surfing the net when ever I am on the plane. The key being that my batteries last. Power ports are definitely essential. You would need them at each seat or under each seat so the wires from the Isle seat are not crossing over the passengers at the window or center. Sam, The system is WiFi meaning you do not need a carrier, just a card that picks up the signal. Most, if not all cards (internal or external) have this capability. If there is a fee to be paid, I would luv to make a suggestion that it be available in multiple levels. This way, if SW can get, or is allowed to get a receiver for the gates/terminals, passengers can log on while waiting at the gates for their flights, especially during and long layovers. But this may be a conflict with any contracts the airport has with other vendors. There are however a few airlines providing this service at the gate level now. Just a thought. One more thing....Maybe SW could carry privacy screens onboard to provide to their passengers who wish to use their computer. This will prevent unintentional disruption to thy neighbor since it will BLACK the screen out for anyone sitting next to you. The light or action from the screen will not bother those who are trying to sleep or just relax. Thanks again!
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MY COMPLAINT to southwest was posted yesterday around the middle of the day. Last night at home, southwest contacted me to address my problems I experienced on a flight. WOW! The customer service person explained to me several things that helped me understand better what caused my problems and through her attitude and information and other things that she shared left me staring at the phone after we hung up. I went from being bitter with my experience to being a Southwest Cheerleader! What an incredible customer service attitude. I feel also sorry about my earlier blog and just say "cheers to southwest". SIncerely, Todd Brock
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Thanks for all of the suggestions and input. We are very excited to begin testing broadband onboard our flights. There are alot of details still to be worked out, and keep in mind this is a test. Not only will we be proving out and testing the technology, but also how the service will be integrated within our Marketing, Operations and Customer Service. - At this point we are not looking at installing power to the seats. Adding power outlets significantly increases the cost and complexity of the system. Some of these costs are associated with additional weight of the system, installation and ongoing maintenance costs, in addition to the cost of the system. - As mentioned above, we will be filtering traffic to inappropriate sites. I would expect an experience similar to using the internet in a public place such as a library. - VOIP will be blocked. Most of the technical details have been worked out and are ready for testing. The big tasks now are the finishing the engineering related to certification and installation. Over the next few months, we will also be working out the Customer Service details. Stay tuned for updates on our progress!
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This is really great news. I just wanted to say good job SWA. -PS Power on the plane would be nice too.
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Thumbs up on the inflight internet access! A few thoughts: - don't require FA's to be all-knowing, techno-geeks - turn on only above 30,000ft and off before descent - make it easy to access. easy to find the network. no user id or passwords neeeded - not only filter Skype but also other bandwidth hogs like massive multiplayer online role-player games (World of Warcraft, SecondLife, etc) - highly, highly encourage headphones Thanks so much for keeping the info flowing! :) Cheers, Michael Domingo former HDQ Systems Dept empl now in Washington, DC
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It would be a great idea to have broadband Internet access aboard Southwest, especially when you are on a long haul flight such as Tampa to Los Angeles with a stop in Austin. Moreover, having broadband Internet access makes the difference for the business traveler on the go. However, as long as certain services are filtered (like filtering out inappropriate websites and blocking access to certain services like VOIP (due to the high bandwidth consumed)) broadband Internet access aboard Southwest can be accessed easily by everyone aboard.
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Yes to email and IM. No to voice AC power would be nice but on most flights not necessary. But you might tell Boeing to add it to the planes you buy in the future. Pricing, if any, should be by itinerary.
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People could buy gadgets with longer battery life - you are only flying across America, not New York to Tokyo. There would be no problems with VoIP if people would chat at reasonable levels. What are they going to chat about anyway? If you are discussing business, you never know who is sitting in the row behind you. If seats are like pavements, will people find a hotspot in the plane and read your e mail? Probably the only reason people would make a voice call on the plane would be to tell their folks that the plane will be late. But this is Southwest, and Southwest is always on time.
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I think this would be a great addition to the benefits of the 'Business Select' fare, making it even more appealing.
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great idea!! I fly 50+ round trips a year on SWA. Agree with Mr. Coleman, etc. above. Would be a nice perk for your road warrior, frequent fliers & Business Select passengers. Yes, require head sets & no phone calls. I prefer to rest on planes while traveling on business and won't be able to if lots of "phone calls" occurring. Great work SW!!!!
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[...] not because they are the first US airline to begin testing onboard broadband internet (although, seriously, kudos). ItÃ
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Wow! This is terrific input from all of our technology-savy CUSTOMERS! It's like we have thousands of testers. I've always known we have the smartest Passengers. Thanks for sharing your best ideas with us. Luv ya/mean it!
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Head sets only and no VOIP. As one who enjoys the respite from email for the length of the flight, I see little gain in this proposed move, but expect it is inevitable and only want to minimize the negative impact.
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I understand wifi on airlines is common in Europe, would love to have it here. I do agree, headphones and no Skype calls. It's bad enough to hear the one sided babble before and after takeoff and landing. Most people would comply with that I think.
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Another comment, I regularly avoid flying through airports that charge for wifi access. There are too many different companies with their hands out, it makes no sense unless you only use a specific route every time. Even MacDonalds in Europe offers free wifi.
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I think this is great way to pass the time or stay busy . Regarding the question on VOIP ( i am in the biz) no it does not require cell phone connectivity. Your speaker and mice are usually a head set connected to your computer . Having said that there are many ways the service provider can block VOIP calls which is fine with me. Anyhow thanks for taking the lead.